Lately I’ve begun to notice a pattern in my life. It’s one that I’m excited about and increasingly anticipate. Why? Because God is its originator, and it reveals his character to me.
It’s not a pattern in nature that reveals God as “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Ps. 146:6), even though that is who God is. Neither is it a pattern that reveals him as Mother (Isa. 49:15), Father (Luke 15:11-32), Housewife (Luke 15:8-10), Visitor (Genesis 18), or Host (Luke 14:16-24)—though those are all dimensions of God’s character.
Rather, through fragments of songs given to me, sometimes in the night, sometimes in the day, I’ve met God the Song-Giver.
Long ago, Elihu, one of Job’s acquaintances, acknowledged that God gives songs in the night (Job 35:10). That’s nothing new; God has been doing it for centuries. It just took me a long time to notice. Once I did, I began to record in my journal the song-gifts and the circumstances surrounding them.
Allow me to share a few of them.
This past summer while camping, I was worrying about one of my adult children. As I sat on a huge rock overlooking a lake, I cried out to God for my child. While I prayed, the Song-Giver sang fragments of a long-forgotten baptismal hymn into my mind, encouraging me not to be anxious: “We dare your steadfast word to prove. . . . And visit us in grace today. . . . O keep and help them by your power in every hard and trying hour.”
Those lines were all I could recall from a song I sung often as a child at baptisms, but hadn’t sung in years. I repeated the phrases as I walked back to the campsite, recognizing them for what they were: a gift. I jotted the words down, and back at home I discovered that they were from “O God, Great Father, Lord and King” (Psalter Hymnal, no. 274).
The Song-Giver also used a neighbor’s bagpipes to sing his comfort into my heart. Two days after the death of Harry, a dear mentor of mine, “Amazing Grace” floated across the street from Kelly’s bagpipes into our home. The words that entered my mind were not those of the first verse, which speak of being lost and then found; nor the words of the second verse, which speak of fears being relieved; nor the words of the third verse, which speak of God’s promised good to us.
The words of the fourth verse came through loudly and clearly: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home” (PH, no. 462). The words comforted me with the knowledge that my friend Harry had finally arrived home after a long, difficult journey, and that I will too, someday.
In the past when I’ve taken on the challenge of a new writing project, I’ve often been overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy. Then the Song-Giver has spurred me on to accept the challenge he has placed before me. Often he has brought this line from “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” to my mind: “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do as with his love he befriends you” (PH, no. 253). As I ponder the guiding, embracing friendship of my Lord, I feel reassured that I can take on any task he assigns to me.
Years ago when phrases from songs flitted through my mind, I didn’t pay attention. Now I do. How can I ignore them when I know that God—our encouraging, compassionate, and challenging Song-Giver—is singing them for his glory and my benefit?